Ducey lifts business occupancy restrictions, clears way for sporting events

Gov. Doug Ducey gives the latest Arizona coronavirus update during a news conference July 23, 2020, in Phoenix. Photo by Matt York/Associated Press | Pool photo

Gov. Doug Ducey has lifted occupancy restrictions he imposed on restaurants, gyms and other businesses last year, citing a consistent decline in COVID-19 cases.

Restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, water parks, bowling alleys and bars with dine-in service will be permitted to operate at full capacity for the first time since last summer, when Ducey imposed the restrictions amid an unchecked rise in COVID-19 cases. Businesses must still abide by physical distancing, masking and other requirements.

The governor’s executive order also allows Spring Training baseball games and other pro sporting events to take place, provided that they submit a plan for physical distancing and other safety measures to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Ducey noted that Arizona has seen seven sustained weeks of decreasing coronavirus cases, and that more than 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.

“Like the rest of the country, Arizona has made its way out of the winter surge of cases. And we are leading the nation in the vaccination roll out. Our mitigation strategies have been targeted and data driven,” he said in a press statement. 

The executive order doesn’t affect face mask mandates imposed by cities and counties, which will stay in effect. It also doesn’t lift most restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people.

“Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet. We need to continue practicing personal responsibility. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home when you’re sick and wash your hands frequently,” Ducey said.

Under guidelines Ducey and ADHS unveiled in August, businesses like restaurants and gyms were permitted to reopen based on certain benchmarks for COVID spread in each county. Restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen at 50-percent capacity, and gyms were operating at 25-percent capacity.

Over the past week, Arizona has averaged 1,082 confirmed COVID cases per day, down from a peak in early January of nearly 10,400 per day. The current numbers are roughly on par with infection figures in August. The state’s low point following an early summer surge that saw nearly 4,000 confirmed cases a day came in September, when less than 400 new cases were reported daily.

Since the pandemic began more than a year ago, more than 823,000 Arizonans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 16,269 have died. 

On Wednesday, Ducey ordered most public schools in the state to resume in-person instruction by March 15.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”